Generally, someone with a child under 18 needs a Will.
Why? If a person with a child dies without a Will, then the child usually will receive assets directly. And, if a child is under 18 years old, then they generally cannot use or sell inherited money, real estate, or other property.
Therefore, when a minor child inherits assets, the child’s surviving parent (or other Guardian) must ask the Court’s permission to use or sell an inherited asset, or else ask the Court to appoint a Conservator for the child.
For example, if someone who owns a house dies without a Will, and if that person has two minor children and a spouse, then each child inherits a 1/3 ownership of the house (so does the spouse). The children own their interests directly, but are too young to sell them. Therefore, the surviving spouse must ask the Court for permission to sell the house.
How can a Will help? At least two ways.
First, a parent’s Will can give all of their assets to the other parent. That way, a child will not inherit any assets and the Court will not need to be involved.
Second, a parent’s Will can put assets that they want to give a child into a Trust, which sets the assets aside until the child is old enough to manage the property themselves. Until that time, the parent’s Will can appoint an adult (called the “Trustee”) to use or sell assets without having to ask the Court for permission.
Trusts can be very powerful tools, and a good Will should include one. We’ll talk more about Trusts in future posts.
The statements in this blog are generalities, and exceptions exist. And, as always, this post is not legal advice. If you have any questions about this information or about what to do when a loved one passes, please contact us.